HC Deb 24 October 2000 vol 355 cc110-1
2. Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North)

What funding he is committing over the next three years to research into the cancers specific to men. [131848]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper)

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

The most common male cancer is prostate cancer, which kills about 8,500 men each year. The Government are concerned to cut deaths from prostate cancer, which is why we are increasing the Department's directly commissioned research into it by an extra £1 million each year over the next three years, to bring it up to £4.2 million.

Ms Perham

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Speaker. I also welcome the Minister's boost for prostate cancer funds. Will she join me in applauding the achievement of my constituent Colin Osborne, whose Orchid appeal in respect of male cancers has raised £6 million in three years? Will she also recognise the work of the men's health forum, which is also campaigning for increased resources for male cancers? Does she agree, however, that there is much more to be done to increase awareness of male cancers, and of men's health issues in general?

Yvette Cooper

I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend's constituent on his work in raising awareness of male cancers, but I also congratulate her on her own work in raising awareness, and raising funds for future research as well.

We agree that there is more to be done. Under the last Government, only £98,000 was spent by the Department of Health on research into prostate cancer in 1996–97. That is why it is so important for us to work with other funders, with the charities and with the Medical Research Council to increase investment in prostate cancer research.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

May I be—possibly—the last to congratulate you on your post, Mr. Speaker, and, perhaps appropriately, wish you the health to enjoy your time in office?

I wonder whether the Minister agrees with the Government's cancer tsar, who was quoted in Nursing Times as saying that he would never consider having a prostate cancer test himself because treatment was likely to do more harm than the disease itself. On the day that the Government announced £1 million for prostate cancer research, they gave an extra £47 million to the dome. What message does the Minister think that sends about the Government's sense of priorities?

Yvette Cooper

We believe that it is up to individual men to make their own choices about whether to have a prostate-specific antigen test. That is why we are developing an informed-choice programme, to provide men with all the information that they need to make their own decisions about whether to have the test.

As for cancer research funding, the hon. Gentleman's party's record is appalling. By 2003, spending on cancer research directly commissioned by the Department of Health and the Medical Research Council will be £73 million. In 1995–96, it was just £25 million. We have said that we will increase investment in cancer by £500 million. The hon. Gentleman has said that he will increase the subsidy to private health insurance by £500 million. Which does he think is the priority of the British people?